Jeremiah 3:14-18 and the Kingdom of God

Jeremiah 3:14-18

And I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

And I will give you shepherds after my heart, and they will shepherd you with knowledge and understanding.

And when you multiply and are fruitful in the land in those days, declares YHWH,

they will not say again, “The ark of the covenant of YHWH,” and it will not be on their heart, and they will not remember it, and they will not give heed to it, and they will not make it again.

At that time they will call Jerusalem the throne of YHWH,

and all the nations will be gathered to the name of YHWH, to Jerusalem.

And they will no longer go after the stubbornness of their evil heart.

In those days, the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north onto the land which I gave as an inheritance to your fathers.

These promises come in the context of urging faithless, exiled Israel to return to YHWH. They describe what will happen when she repents. In the structure above, notice that four promises to Israel are then restated in reverse order to include the gentiles and Judah. While there may be a minor fulfillment in the Persian era, these verses are truly fulfilled in the Kingdom of God in the New Testament.

Text

And I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion

When the Lord brings Israel back from exile, they will come as individuals. It will be less visible than the exodus from Egypt; instead of millions of people being chased by an army, this exodus will be seen in a lone pilgrim leaving a city and traveling to Zion. Families will be divided as some members stay out in the nations and some come to Zion.

And I will give you shepherds after my heart, and they will shepherd you with knowledge and understanding.

David was chosen to shepherd God’s people because he was a shepherd after God’s own heart. The shepherds God will appoint in the future will teach God’s truth and wisdom to God’s people.

And when you multiply and are fruitful in the land in those days, declares YHWH,

What was commanded to Adam and Noah, God promised to bring about for Abraham. He still has a plan to multiply Israel after the exile.

they will not say again, “The ark of the covenant of YHWH,” and it will not be on their heart, and they will not remember it, and they will not give heed to it, and they will not make it again.

The ark of the covenant was a central symbol of the Lord’s covenant relationship with Israel. It contained the ten commandments, atonement was made on it, and it was the Lord’s throne in the midst of his people. This symbol will be replaced so it is no longer needed. This implies a new covenant, a new place for the law, a new place of atonement, and a new throne for the Lord.

At that time they will call Jerusalem the throne of YHWH,

The second half of the chiasmus is marked by universalizing what was promised to Israel. The replacement of the ark is explained as an unspecified “they” calls Jerusalem the throne of the Lord. The Lord will again rule from Jerusalem, but now the whole city will be his throne, and this will be known by people outside of Israel.

and all the nations will be gathered to the name of YHWH, to Jerusalem.

This promise is stunningly universal. When Israel multiplies and is fruitful in the land, it will not be limited to Jews, but will include all nations. “The name of YHWH” is in apposition to “Jerusalem,” implying that a person cannot come to one without coming to the other, because the name of the Lord is so identified with Jerusalem.

And they will no longer go after the stubbornness of their evil heart.

When good shepherds are teaching Israel, the nations will learn to obey God’s law. With some exceptions, the whole world has been in sin and idolatry, but in the time when the Lord rules from Jerusalem this will change forever.

In those days, the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and they will come together from the land of the north onto the land which I gave as an inheritance to your fathers.

The sad division between Israel and Judah will end when they return from exile. The division has meant that Israel is separated from David and the temple, and Judah’s influence is limited. In the coming time, the twelve tribes will be united under the Lord’s rule in Jerusalem.

Minor Fulfillment

A minor fulfillment naturally follows the proclamation of Cyrus. The Lord acted in mercy by allowing his people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city wall. Since not all of the Jews came back, it could be said that they were taken “one from a city and two from a family” (Jeremiah 3:14). Ezra taught God’s law, prophets prophesied, and Zerubbabel governed. Many Jews lived in the land and multiplied, and there were some God-fearing Gentiles who traveled to the temple. On the other hand, the Lord did not clearly rule from Jerusalem, the ark was not replaced, the shepherds were replaced with thieves (John 10:8), and it could hardly be said that all nations were gathered to the presence of the Lord and obeyed him.

Major Fulfillment: The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is the message at the center of the chiasmus, and it explains all of the surrounding promises. Today, Jesus is enthroned at the right hand of God in the heavenly Jerusalem. He established a better covenant, offered the final propitiatory sacrifice, wrote the law on his people’s hearts, and is present with them by his Holy Spirit. All nations are being gathered to the heavenly Jerusalem, and the church has been multiplying since the book of Acts. Pastors and others are appointed to disciple the nations. Families and cities are divided as individuals flee the world and come to Jesus’ kingdom, but within his kingdom there is no division between tribes or nations. Abraham’s spiritual descendants are coming to the heavenly city that Abraham looked forward to by faith. His descendants were destined to inherit not only Canaan but the whole world, and now it all belongs to Jesus.

Application

These promises should remind Christians of the great commission. Jesus has all authority in Heaven and Earth, so we have the responsibility to shepherd the nations with knowledge, teaching them to turn from their wickedness and submit to the king. In this way, Jesus’ kingdom will be fruitful and multiply, and within this kingdom there will be peace between all nations.

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